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Mar 29 2013

And another thing

Birds!

My god the bird life here. I don’t know what the birds are – they’re not the birds you see in Seattle, so I don’t know. There’s a ubiquitous one that’s black with a long tail and a very loud voice. After I crossed the Congress Avenue bridge and Cesar Chavez Street I approached a cluster of oak trees on the corner and my god the din – it was an absolutely deafening racket of those black birds, whatever they are, shouting. You never hear bird noise like that in Seattle – let alone in downtown Seattle! It was very impressive and foreign and cool.

In the Capitol grounds there were a lot of mourning doves making that call. Also very nice.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    Pteryxx

    These thingies?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great-tailed_Grackle

    http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great-tailed_grackle/id

    A big, brash blackbird, the male Great-tailed Grackle shimmers in iridescent black and purple, and trails a tail that will make you look twice. The rich brown females are about half the male’s size. Flocks of these long-legged, social birds strut and hop on suburban lawns, golf courses, fields, and marshes in Texas, the Southwest, and southern Great Plains. In the evening, raucous flocks pack neighborhood trees, filling the sky with their amazing (some might say ear-splitting) voices.

    I like having them around even with the noise; a sort of businesslike, here-we-are chatter.

    Also don’t forget, it’s bluebell season! The bluebells are just starting to come up on the highway verges.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah, grackles! I remember my aunt hating on them when I was a kid – in rural (or exurban) New Jersey. Yes I think so – that certainly looks like them.

    What are those gorgeous little pink flowers that are in bloom now? They were all along the verges at the airport – shaped like little scalloped bowls.

  3. 3
    Captaintripps

    The birds there drive me nuts. Every year I go for South by Southwest and every year after a night of revelry the damn birds do their “it’s morning, fuck me” routine. Loudly. Right outside the window of wherever I’m staying.

  4. 4
    Jackie the wacky

    Beware. Grackles are territorial and will attack you.

    Some nested near the cafeteria entrance and in a prayer garden at a Baptist conference center I worked for one summer.

    Hilarity ensured.

  5. 5
    Brony

    Those are our Grackles! I personally love them! Watching their social structure is fascinating.

    They spend their non-nesting season mixing and moving is big groups chattering away (I don’t know why but it does not bother me at all). You are here just in time for them to completely separate by sex and turn up the noise to 11 while the males try to out-compete each other for the slightly smaller and brown females. Watching the males line up and stick their beaks up in the air at each other is amusing. You will see the females get chased all over by males who will be puffed up and making some of the most complex and penetrating cries I have ever seen.

    Solo males will also find high points and puff up and scream their heads off all over town. I think they have a dialect too because the details of the song change from one part of the country to another (I am from Arizona and there are some there too).

    If you get the chance go to McKinney Falls State Park before you go. It can be gotten to from downtown in about 20 minutes on a good day.
    http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/mckinney-falls

  6. 6
    Pteryxx

    Gorgeous pink flowers… um, I’m not sure. Maybe annual phlox?

    Bed along a highway in Florida

    Reference the photo is from

    But yeah, the flowers just go NUTS in Texas in the spring, just before it gets too hot and the drought sets in. Take a quick drive if you possibly can.

    2012 news article

    Wildflower page from Texas DOT

  7. 7
    michaeld

    I’m with brony yay grackles ^.^

  8. 8
    theobromine

    I’m not a big fan of grackles: They chase all the other birds away and eat my raspberries. I’ve taken to only filling my birdfeeder in the winter – then they only come in the ones and twos, which is not so bad. (On the other hand, a few years ago a juvenile grackle fell down my chimney (there was no fire at the time), and Eamon and I managed to gently and carefully extract it and release it outside, apparently unharmed.)

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Well I know if I lived here I would start to hate the grackles very quickly. I hate the robins in Seattle precisely because they shout their damn heads off during breeding season which for them is apparently at least six months long. They start at dawn. Their song is very unmusical and monotonous. Ugh, For me the grackles are exotic, but that wouldn’t last long.

  10. 10
    Worldtraveller

    Ah, grackles, one of the few birds with a call almost as obnoxious as a cactus wren. :) I’m learning most of the common birds here around Seattle, but I learned birding living in Southern Arizona, so I’m quite spoiled.

  11. 11
    Brony

    @fastlane
    So you have been scolded by a Thrasher? Or annoyed by a Gila Woodpecker?

  12. 12
    Great American Satan

    Seattle here too. My home boy said he had a robin making its half-the-year spring call at 1 AM. In Interbay, we often hear geese honking at any hour of the night. Does the city light alter their sleep patterns, or are day birds sometimes insomniacs?

  13. 13
    heromachine

    Are the pink flowers from crepe myrtles (https://www.google.com/search?q=crepe+myrtle&hl=en&safe=off&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=4_hVUaWAC-T9igKl8YCwCw&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAQ&biw=1300&bih=638)? We have lots of them downtown where I work, and welcome to Austin, by the way!

  14. 14
    cgilder

    I think you’re thinking of the pink evening primrose that’s blooming right now. The wildflower scene this year is probably going to be a bit sparse because of the dry dry dry winter we had. Bluebonnets are coming up in patches, and the Indian paintbrushes will be up soon.

  15. 15
    Rockin' Robin

    Oh noes, robins in Seattle are harassing Ophelia, with their unmusical and monotonous songs. Lucky for her, they don’t know how to use twitter.

  16. 16
    Marlon

    I’m not a grackle fan. They eat any cat food that I leave on the porch, have that annoying sound, and like to roost above wherever my car is parked.

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Hi harasser.

  18. 18
    Francisco Bacopa

    I am glad everyone identified the birds correctly. It was surely the great-tailed grackle. It’s mating and nesting season. Be glad you weren’t attacked. Grackles love artificial light and have learned to raid dumpsters.

    I don’t think anyone correctly identified the flowers. They were azaleas, a subtropical rhotodendron. Houston and New Orleans are the best cities to see azaleas. If the winter is not cold enough some people shovel crushed ice on the roots so that all the buds will bloom at once around the first of March. Austin is about as far inland as the big azaleas will thrive and I am sure they don’t resort to icing. The natural staggered blooms you saw were probably quite nice.

  19. 19
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    The grackle has a long tail that is not dissimilar to the magpie. The starlings have also got iridescent black and purple coats.

    The first thing that also caught my attention when I went to Blarney, Co. Cork last year was the difference in the sounds of the crows overhead, to that of the Dublin crows. The Cork crows were far more raucous, I thought, than the Dublin ones.

    Never heard of the grackle, till I read this post. So thanks for that info.

  20. 20
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgxGXYQ2h5A?rel=0&w=560&h=315

    Abilene, TX. Grackles H/t Monica Peters Hardy

    Just saw this recent video on Grackles in TX.

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